Swedish Anders Lindbäck started as a netminder for Jokerit and Ak Bars had Igor Bobkov between the pipes. The home team had Kirill Petrov and Kristian Khenkel out with injuries. Forward Henrik Haapala was missing from Jokerit line-up.
The first few minutes were pretty cautious by both sides. Neither of the teams wanted to make an early mistake. However Jokerit ended up having the first short-handed play, when Brian O’Neill hooked Daniil Tarasov in the neutral zone. The Finnish team killed the penalty, even though Ak Bars was constantly pressuring their goal.
Soon after O’Neill’s penalty ended Ak Bars scored their first goal, when Kirill Panyukov rushed through Jokerit defense and outsmarted Lindbäck. Later in the period both teams kept on taking penalties, which caused some four on four play. In an intermittent period Jokerit also got their chance to showcase their powerplay. However they did not get much done on their two minutes of possibilities.
Artyom Lukoyanov had to leave the ice before the first 20 minutes were done. He took some hit during the game. Apart from a few moments, the first period was strongly controlled by the home team. Tarasov was probably the most visible individual on the ice.
Just before the buzzer, Ak Bars fled on two against one attack. Jordan Weal chose not to pass the puck to his teammate, but shot it irresistibly to the net behind Lindbäck. Weal, who is playing his first season in Ak Bars also got an assist to his team’s first goal.
Even though Jokerit got a good start to the second period with a powerplay, they managed to fall back to the reckless mode they had in the first period. Ak Bars’ top forward kept getting high quality offensive plays, when it was difficult for Jokerit defense to hold their opponents back from their net.
Jokerit got the puck to Ak Bars’ end a little more efficiently than in the first period, but still holding on to the gained position was tough for the visitors.
"We played five games in the good six weeks of preseason and we did not face a KHL team once. It was now good to see, what the level is here", said Marjamaki after the game.
Bobkov needed to make a few full effort saves through the second period as Jokerit created chances. Ak Bars’ got some counter-attacks, when the opponent lost the puck in critical moments in the offensive zone.
The third goal for the home team originated from a mistake that Jokerit made in the corner of their defensive end. Goaltender Lindbäck tried to open a play through the boards, but the puck got stopped by own players. Ak Bars moved the game fast to the center and Nikita Dynyak put a wrister to the net.
In late second period both teams got minor penalties at the same time, when Jokerit defenceman David Sklenicka got one for interference and Ak Bars Dmitri Voronkov had to serve time for roughing.
Ak Bars started the third period with good puck possession, while Jokerit still had difficulties in exiting their own zone. The Finnish visitor had one of their best scoring chances in the first minutes of the third period as well, when almost like from middle of nowhere the puck came to the reach of John Norman near Ak Bars’ goal. Goaltender Bobkov streched his leg and blocked the puck’s way across the line.
When played in full strength, Jokerit didn’t get their game together and Ak Bars got the puck kept far away from their sticks.
An occasion did rise for Jokerit to narrow the opponents lead, when they got a powerplay half-way through the third period. The two-minute time was mostly spent away from Ak Bars’ zone.
"Zero goals scored. After such a performance it is pretty hard to win a hockey game. The opponent scored their goals in a bit wrong time for us. We need to improve certain things for Saturday’s game", Jokerit head coach Lauri Marjamäki stated after the game.
As the game got closer to it’s end, Jokerit pushed the pressure towards Bobkov. The Russian goaltender remained calm and stopped the shots with confidence.
The game ended to 3-0 score after a solid performance by home team Ak Bars. Igor Bobkov summed 22 saves and Anders Lindbäck on the other net stopped the puck 15 times.
Player with the most points in Thursday’s match-up was Ak Bars’ Canadian forward Jordan Weal, who scored a goal and received an assist.
Both teams continue their season on Saturday as Jokerit will play against Neftekhimik Niznekamsk on their away tour. Ak Bars gets visitors from China as Kunlun Red Star arrives to Kazan.